Tim Bogert

Then and Now with Vanilla Fudge
Then and Now with Vanilla Fudge
Bogert in the ’90s playing a Michael Tobias Design six-string.

Innovative bassist Tim Bogert first graced the pages of Vintage Guitar in June, 1993. At the time, the veteran of Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, and Beck, Bogert & Appice (amongst other aggregations) had settled in as an instructor at a Los Angeles music school and was gigging with a power trio to keep his chops honed.

Well, things change, and today Bogert is back with a version of Vanilla Fudge consisting of himself, original drummer Carmine Appice, keyboardist Bill Pascali, and guitarist Teddy Rondinelli, who replaced original guitarist Vince Martell.

We recently spoke once again with Bogert, and got into the current state of affairs of the Fudge, his other efforts, his gear, and we also fine-tuned some of the band’s history.

Shortly after Bogert’s first interview, he made an appearance at a guitar show in Southern California. While signing autographs, an attendee told him, “I used to listen to your stuff when I was in ‘Nam!” Bogert flashed a thumbs-up said, “Well, I’m glad you made it back!” and later said the exchange wasn’t the first of its kind.

“A lot of guys who came back have thanked me for the music over the years,” he noted. “I’m glad to know it helped.

Members of other bands, such as Yes and Uriah Heep, have cited Vanilla Fudge as influential. The quartet, which broke out with a cover of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” in 1967, was known for its innovative reworkings of hit singles by other artists. Songs by English bands, Motown groups, R&B artists, and tunes from other genres all underwent considerable modification by the Fudge during the band’s heyday, getting bombastic arrangements that sometimes included classical material. In the late ’60s, Vanilla Fudge, like other rock bands, didn’t produce music that was danceable; their efforts simply demanded a listener’s attention.

Bogert’s bass playing was an important part of the Vanilla Fudge sound. Refusing to conform to the normal rhythm section role of a bass player, Bogert’s efforts included oddball notes played high on the neck, expressive slides and note bends, and fuzzed-up tones!

The band broke up in 1970 following the release of its fifth album, Rock & Roll, and in the ensuing years, there had been other reunion attempts, including a 1984 album called Mystery that featured Martell on one track, and an appearance at the Atlantic Records’ 40th anniversary show in 1988 that saw Lanny Cordola in the guitarist’s slot.

“The Fudge got back together in ’98, and that has kept me busy,” he noted. “Carmine has really hustled; he and our manager have done a nice job getting us around the world, literally.

So, how did the reformation come about?

“Vinnie called me up and said, Tim, I have a gig for the Fudge in Tokyo; would you like to go?'” Bogert said. “I’d retired from the music school in ’97, so I was just hanging around, and I thought it’d be fun. I hadn’t played out on the road in a long time. We called Mark Stein, and he wasn’t interested. We called Carmine, and he was very interested. Vinnie had been working in New York with Bill Pascali, who sounds very much like Mark, vocally; if he does Mark’s phrasing and you close your eyes, it’s pretty close.

“We had a really good time in Japan, so we said, ‘Let’s keep this going.’ And we did. It was profitable and fun – two things a man my age needs to hear!”

The late-’90s edition of Vanilla Fudge created an album titled The Return, which featured new recordings of Fudge covers such as “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and “Shotgun,” as well as a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar” sung by Martell. Bogert says the Gaye song was “one of our old ‘club tunes.’ We had three or four sets of material back in the club days.”

The band also covered Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” (Appice co-wrote and drummed on the original), and even gave the Fudge treatment to two songs by modern boy bands – ‘N Sync’s “Tearing Up My Heart” and the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.” However, Martell ultimately had to depart due to problems with his hands.

“It hurt him to play,” said Bogert. “He sat out six or eight months, then Teddy Rondinelli came in.”

Rondinelli is the brother of drummer Bobby Rondinelli, percussionist on the three most recent albums by the Blue Oyster Cult (Heaven Forbid, Curse of the Hidden Mirror, and the live A Long Day’s Night). Teddy was located through a friend of Bobby’s. Vanilla Fudge and Blue Oyster Cult haven’t gigged together, but Bogert thinks “..it would be a good combo.”

With Rondinelli onboard, Vanilla Fudge tweaked the original song list of The Return, eliminating “Ain’t That Peculiar” and plugging in “Eleanor Rigby” and an alternate version of the Fudge original “Need Love” featuring Rondinelli and the San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra. The album was retitled Then and Now, and was released on the Fuel 2000 label.

Another project for Bogert and Appice was the 2001 album, D.B.A., with guitarist Rick Derringer. “Carmine and Rick had worked together before,” Bogert noted. “And they were about to do something else. Carmine and I had just done a Japanese thing with a fellow named Char that went real well. He’s had 20 number one records there in the last 20 years. His style is very Beck-ish, so when we went over to play with him, we did a bunch of B.B.A. material, which was a lot of fun for Carmine and me, of course. We played at the Budokan; I’ve got video of that performance, and they put out a CD, as well.

“As for the deal with Rick, I didn’t know if it was supposed to be ongoing, because it was really Carmine’s thing. We did the album, but I had no idea whether we were going to tour to back it up; as it came to pass, we did not.

“Rick’s now doing his Christian thing, and of course, and Carmine’s got 117 projects going on at any given moment!” Bogert said with a laugh. “He’s the most workaholic man I’ve ever known. He has 4,000 minutes a month on his cell plan, and always goes over! He’s workin’ 18 hours a day, 365 days a year. That’s the way he likes it.”

All five original Vanilla Fudge albums are available on CD, some with extra material. For example, the current version of the third album, Renaissance, features a cover of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David-penned “The Look of Love,” as did an earlier CD version of the fourth album, Near the Beginning.

“We won the Venice Pop Festival in 1968 with that tune. There’s a picture of me holding a golden gondola,” Bogert chuckled.

Near the Beginning has alternate archival material on a subsequently released version of the CD, but it also has Bogert’s remarkable bass solo on the side-long “Break Song,” which still holds up 36 years after it was recorded live at the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. The bassist performs riffs on bent strings (dropping each note down to its intended pitch), plunks raucous chords, and produces rapid-fire muted notes reminiscent of the second portion of the theme from “The Twilight Zone,” an effect accomplished by “muffling with the back of the palm, which gives a bass drum-ish sort of sound.”

The showcase concludes with a shrieking fuzz bass tour-de-force that utilizes a Mosrite fuzz tone.

Some years ago, a BBA boxed set was marketed that included previously unreleased material. Bogert thought that effort turned out well. Does that mean there could be an original Vanilla Fudge boxed set in the offing?

“That’s a question you’d need to ask Atco or Rhino,” said Bogert. “I believe Rhino bought the masters. I know they bought Cactus (tapes), and they’ve just put out two beautiful boxed sets of Cactus material, a two-CD live set that features a concert in Memphis where we were on-form; it was a real good night! And there’s a two-CD set of everything we ever recorded. Those came out really well; I’d sent ’em a bunch of pictures.”

Gear-wise, Bogert has relied on an SWR rig for most of the last decade. The setup consists of a 4×10″ cab, a 1×18″ cab, and a 400-watt head.

“Recently, with the Fudge, I got two 2×12″ Epifani cabinets,” he said. “They’re a small company in Brooklyn, and they make some kick-ass speakers! I’ve been using an SWR 750 head to push the two of them at four ohms. They kick hard, without being overpowering.”

As for instruments, Bogert still uses Michael Tobias Design six-string basses, and recently got two five-string and two six-string basses from ESP. “I really like that ESP five-string,” he said. “I also have a maple Fodera six-string that almost looks like my old Fender, with a blond neck. It has that real low-end punch the Fender had.”

He still tunes his six-string basses in a not-quite-contrabass manner, going from low B to high B, instead of high C, explaining, “I can play a mean rhythm guitar on the top four strings, while keeping a root going, which I did for many years in my trio.”

What’s more, he now feels a strong connection to five- and six-string basses.

“I like the low string, big-time! I can pop on a five better than I can pop on a six. But on a six, you can do a two-octave spread, vertically; you never have to move your arm left or right, and as a singer, that’s wonderful, and it feels very comfortable. I could go back to a four with no problem, but it would be so much less to work with, and I am so used to playing more vertically instead of horizontally… except when I do those flash bits, when your arm goes flying up and down the neck. My basses usually stay pretty vertical, particularly when I’m singing. But when I’m jamming or doing a solo, anything goes.”

Bogert also jokingly referred to the aforementioned solo on “Break Song” as “horizontal playing.”

In the glory days of the original Vanilla Fudge, Bogert was known to favor Fender Precision Basses with Telecaster Bass necks, as well as Fender amplifiers. But we asked about an old photo of the band that shows him playing what appears to be a Fender Jazz Bass with a Tele Bass neck.

“That was the first bass of mine that was stolen at a gig, right off the stage,” he recalled. “I took my bass off, and a roadie put it on a stand in front of the amp while I did an interview. All of a sudden, I heard all this commotion, and people went running out the door behind the stage. Some guy had picked up my bass, ran through the parking lot, hopped into a car, and was gone. We never did catch him.

“But I had made two or three instruments like that before I was given one by Fender, as an endorser. I played with configurations back then like I play with motorcycles now.”

The modern version of Vanilla Fudge will tour domestically and internationally in 2005. He’s not sure what their schedule will be like, but said in ’04 they did their share of flying.

“Looking at our schedule from last June kind of sums it up,” he said. “It was frenetic. We started in L.A., then went to New York for three days. Then we went to Ireland for four days, came back to New York for two more days, went to L.A. and stayed overnight to get on a plane to Hawaii; we worked there for five days, flying to each island, then came back to L.A. and stayed overnight to get on a plane to Paris. Played Paris and Lyons for four days, then flew back to L.A. That was June.”

Asked about the acknowledgement by other veteran musicians of Vanilla Fudge as an influence, Tim summed up his status by noting, “It’s very nice, as one gets older, to know that you made a dent. I like that, because as an older player, you don’t get to work a whole lot, so you take the accolades any place you can find them!”

This article originally appeared in VG‘s May. ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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